Ep.322: Full of the Spirit.

Hello, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray With Me”.

In Ephesians 5, Paul says, “Don’t get drunk on wine. Instead, be filled with the Spirit” (Eph 5:18). I’ve never found a satisfactory explanation of what it means to “be filled with the Spirit”, but in this passage, Paul gives a couple hints. 

His first hint contrasts spirit-fullness with drunkenness.

In Shakespeare’s play MacBeth, McDuff wakes a sleeping porter late in the morning. The porter says he’s tired because he caroused and drank until the rooster crowed. Drink, he said, provokes nose-painting, urine, and lechery. “Lechery it provokes and unprovokes,” he says. “It provokes the desire but takes away the performance” (MacBeth, Act 2 Scene 1). 

I’m not competent to comment on the porter’s view of alcohol and sex, but parts of it line up with Paul’s view that drunkenness leads to debauchery. Clearly, Paul doesn’t condone carousing until the rooster crows. He suggests a lifestyle of being filled with the Spirit.  

Paul’s contrast between spirit-fullness and drunkenness, contains a second hint, because it’s not just a contrast, it’s also a comparison. To be drunk is to be “full of wine” in a way that influences attitudes and behavior. Being full of the Spirit also influences behavior. It prompts music in your heart, music in community, and constant thanksgiving to God. As Paul puts it, “Be filled with the Spirit and speak to each other in psalms and hymns and spirit-songs. Make music from your heart to God. Always give thanks to God” (Eph 5:19-20). 

But what about the vexing question of how to be filled with the Spirit? Some groups say it occurs when you are born again. Others say it happens when you first speak in tongues. Others suggest it occurs when you submit fully to Jesus as Lord of your life. 

As for me, I don’t see much of a connection between such experiences and the positive habits of heart-music and thanksgiving Paul proposes. I see spirit-fullness as a lifelong journey. As I empty myself of wine and greed and lechery, I make room for the Spirit, who fills me with himself. 

Let’s pray. 

Our father, I like music in my heart and music in the community and a settled attitude of thanksgiving. Empty my heart of anxiety and swearing and the songs of debauchery, and fill me with spirit-music and love for community. 


I’m Daniel, on the channel “Pray with Me”.  

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